11-29-21 Growing Relationships: The Power of Mercy and Grace

Hi Friends,

     One of the points to relationships is to be able to display who we are. This might not always be a lovely image, of course. We must remember that we are all works in progress, and so, the transformation may look a little messy at times. This is where mercy and grace become so powerful. Listen to this great verse: 

“Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Heb 4:16 NIV

     Throne of Grace. Because of the Love of the Father, the sacrifice of the Son and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we can come to God with no guilt. God has wiped our slates clean and we are no longer judged by our past selfish, prideful nature. We are a New Creation in Christ, but of course, this doesn’t mean we ACT like this newly defined being all the time. We still sin even though we have been freed from the penalty sin brings, which is death, an eternal separation from God, here and then forevermore. Because we have become born again in Christ, we are connected to God and have the potential to become more and more like Him. This again is the original design God had in mind for us humans. With the obstacle of separation gone, we can now come to God 24/7, as they say. We approach God with confidence as this lovely verse claims. We do not need to cower when we have sinned. We certainly should not run away from God when we have sinned. But with a repentant heart, we can be sure that God will forgive and continue to restore our relationship with Himself. It is this repentant heart that causes us to become born again in the first place, and it is learning to live with this repentant heart that keeps us connected to God and growing into His Image. Repent simply means to turn around…so when we sin, because we will, we 1- become aware of the sin, then instead of continuing down that path, we 2- turn around and run into the waiting arms of Christ to receive forgiveness for the error. Here is where we receive mercy and find grace.

     Receive Mercy. Mercy is not getting what we deserve to get. So when we sin, we deserve punishment. But because of God’s Love, He grants us mercy instead. He does not count our offense against us. That is, He continues to treat us with love and respect in spite of our bad behavior. God looks straight into our heart and sees the child who is still growing, learning, maturing, and yes, still messing up. He does not ignore the sin. He certainly does not condone the sin, but He forgives it. He understands that we are not who we will be, yet. That we are merely children, who need to be lovingly corrected. If He were to punish us every time we sinned, we would collapse and not be open to His correction. We would be more even broken by the lack of mercy, and so God in His wisdom, does not allow us to reap every wrong thing we sow, but treats us with leniency and compassion instead. Remember we are still talking about relationships here, so keep this in mind.

     Find Grace. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. So not only does God not hold us accountable for every sin, but as we repent, He blesses us on top of it! A great example of this is one of the stories of Abraham in the Bible. There was a time when he and his wife, Sarah, went to a foreign country. Sarah, even in her older age, was still a very beautiful woman. Fearing the king of the land would desire Sarah for himself, and so kill Abraham to get her, Abraham told Sarah to tell everyone she encountered that she was his sister, instead of his wife. This was a half truth…which, by the way, is a lie. Sarah was obedient to her husband though, and as a result, taken to the king to become part of his harem. During the night, this king was given a dream in which God told him not to touch Sarah, because if he did, he would be as good as dead because she was a married woman. (see Gen 20 for the whole story) The king believes God and so he quickly, and wisely, returns Sarah to Abraham, but then he does something that took me by surprise. This king blesses Abraham with sheep and cattle and male and female slaves, and invites Abraham to live wherever he wanted in his kingdom! This, my Friends, is Grace. Not holding Abraham responsible for his lack of good judgment and then blessing him on top of it all? That is a beautiful picture of Grace and this is what God does for us too.

     Above and beyond. First, I love that God puts these real life stories in the Bible, because truthfully, no one is perfect. We all fall short of the glory of God. All of us. Even these incredible saints were filled with fear at times, and lied and cheated and…and well, they were fully human, so we can relate to them, right?! Second, this awesome display of God’s Grace towards Abraham really has to make us stop and reflect on the Grace He offers us everyday too. I mean, it is clear that Abraham was wrong. It is clear that poor Sarah might have to pay the price for his lie. And it is clear that this pagan king was acting more righteously than this saint! And this is actually the second time this has happened to these two great saints! (see Gen 12:10-20 for more) Yet God knew Abraham’s heart. He knew that he was not trying to hurt Sarah. He knew he was not trying to openly deceive the king to get something from him. He knew Abraham was His child who had real emotions, like fear, to contend with. Because He is so good, even when His children are not, God protected both the king and Sarah, then blessed Abraham. And how many times does He do this for us? Because of God’s mercy, we do not suffer as much as we should. Because of God’s Grace, we are blessed so much more than we deserve. But then again, godly love has nothing to do with deserving or not. It is a free gift God gives us, and so it should be a free gift we grant to others around us too.

     Give mercy and grace. Again I remind us: no one is perfect. Whether intentionally or not, we will hurt one another. When others deserve to receive our punishment, let’s choose to show mercy instead. But let’s not stop there. Let’s choose to bless them on top of it. This doesn’t mean what they did is ok, but it does mean we understand that we are all fallen humans who will mess up, more than we like to admit. We display the compassion of Christ when we choose to not hold others accountable. No other image of this is more clear than when our innocent and perfect Savior hung upon that Cross and prayed for those who had led Him there…this includes you and me, my Friends. So we must choose: will we allow God to use the relationships in our lives to refine us or not? Will our actions toward others display our level of spiritual maturity or lack thereof? Will we choose to be more like Jesus or more like that old, selfish, prideful, MMI, sinful, self-righteous….well, I hope you know which one I am learning to choose more and more, and pray you will too. It is a process, so make sure to have mercy and grace on yourself too! The more I choose God’s Way instead of my old broken way, my life is filled with more peace and joy, no matter the results. Want that? Then won’t you join me?

     Until we meet again, keep lifting your eyes to God, He’s closer than you think.

<>< Peace, Diane

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